The Starr’s Mill Panthers wanted to test themselves with their non-region schedule. They got just the kind of battle they wanted in a 34-17 loss to the Northgate Vikings.
With visions of a deep playoff run, the Panthers want to be as battle-tested as possible. They opened their season against AAAAAAA foe Newnan and still have Sandy Creek looming. Their home opener brought the rekindling of their rivalry with Northgate, formerly a region foe and now a AAAAAA contender. The Panthers wanted a bit of revenge for the Vikings snapping their 8-0 start last year, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Starr’s Mill started the game strong. Nick Brown returning the opening kickoff out to the 37 to set them up in good field position, and Cole Gilley gouged the heart of the Viking defense for 21 yards apiece on each of the first two plays from scrimmage. The Panthers pushed into the red zone, but a key holding call would back them up and force them to settle for a long field goal. Michael Lantz was more than capable, crushing a 41-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Northgate kept their composure on their opening possession, taking away a lead that they would never give back. The Vikings got tricky on their first play, going for a halfback pass. The throw was on the money to a wide open receiver, but he dropped the sure touchdown. They faced down a pair of 3rd and longs and converted both, the second a 29-yard pass on 3rd and 14. Fullback Kyle Cater capped off the drive with a 3-yard plunge. The extra point was no good, staking the Vikings to a 6-3 lead.
Northgate struck again on their next possession, driving 65 yards before Cater again punched it in from one yard out for a 13-3 lead early in the second quarter. Their third drive was just as fruitful. Facing a 3rd and 3 at their own 32, Trandon Torres-Niles sliced through the defense virtually untouched and raced the distance for a 68-yard touchdown and a 20-3 advantage that would hold into halftime.
Starr’s Mill didn’t shy away from the challenge, they came out in the second half with some fight. After their defense opened by forcing a three and out, the offense made it count with a 67-yard scoring drive. Brown started it right with a 9-yard run on the first snap. Gilley kept the chains moving with a 7-yard pickup on 3rd and 4. The Panthers went to the air to find pay dirt, Joey DeLuca hitting Mitch Prowant over the top on a post route for a 26-yard touchdown to pull within 20-10.
Northgate was unfazed, answering with a 90-yard drive. The biggest chunk came on a 46-yard Cater rumble. The crushing blow came via Levi Robinson cutting off the right side and racing for a 26-yard score and a 27-10 lead.
The Vikings padded the margin on the first play of the fourth quarter, Turner Hughes punching it in from five yards out.
Starr’s Mill strung together one more scoring drive, converting on fourth down three times. DeLuca finished it himself on an option keeper, splitting the defense for a 22-yard run.
The game was played out almost exclusively on the ground, with both teams combining for just 69 yards passing. The Panthers had a hard time containing the Viking rushing attack, allowing 350 rushing yards. Starr’s Mill picked up 183 yards of their own. Cole Gilley led the way with 124 yards on 22 carries. Joey DeLuca was next with 9 attempts for 42 yards and a score.
The 0-2 Panthers travel to play Chapel Hill on Friday. The 2-0 Vikings travel to play Douglas County this week.